Veterans and Military Retirees
by: Thomas D. Segel
Always Congressional Targets
Harlingen, Texas, January 13, 2010: The easiest targets for Washington politicians to hit are the veterans and military retirees. They are easy because few of them fight back when negatively impacted by the beltway dealmakers. Far too many of them depend upon the various veterans and retiree service organizations to speak in their behalf, not understanding that many of those organizations have a leadership that has repeatedly failed its members on a wide variety of issues.
Without the men and women who picked up arms and stood tall on the ramparts, the United States of America would not exist today. There is no other fraternity that has given more to their country or has been victimized more by Washington D.C. than the men and women of the armed forces.
Just as that is an undeniable truth, it is also true that once their years of service are completed, be it because of wounds, failed health or the passage of time, our elected leaders rush to violate and invalidate every promise made to these same warriors while they were defending the nation.
Congress promised to take care of our veterans, yet 25% of the homeless population is made up of those who served their country and little to nothing is being done to get them off the streets. Substance abuse among veterans and even retirees is extremely high, as is untreated mental illness. Washington handles those problems with mere pennies on the dollars that should be spent.
Disabled military retirees fought for 108 years to gain concurrent receipt of disability pay and their pensions, as was granted to all other federal employees. During all those years Congress denied them, and still the matter has not been totally resolved.
At this hour more than 900,000 disability and medical claims are remaining unresolved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of these petitions have been languishing in those VA in-boxes for up to three years.
.. And now rides in a dark horse called Healthcare Reform. Who it will end up trampling is anyone's guess, but it is even money bet that the people receiving Medicare, Tricare for Life (a Medicare supplement for military retirees over age 65) and even Tricare (several programs for active duty and recently retired military personnel) would be hurt if legislation were finalized in its current form.
Across the country the warrior clan is speaking out on this issue and their words do not bode well for those who now hold office.
Retired Air Force Colonel Jay Lagree of Delaware writes, "The folks who seek seats in the House or Senate should be hearing from retired military who are angry at the senate which has proceeded to gut our Tricare for Life. We all need to be writing our newspapers, our congressional representatives and most important each other as we battle this terrible bill."
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Revie, USA (Ret) of New Mexico lives with a 100% disability. He has spent years as an advocate for the retired community and veterans. Says the colonel, "The big weakness of Tricare for Life is that its reimbursement ratios are indexed to Medicare and if the $500 billion raid on Medicare to support Obamacare takes place, something must give, and I suspect Medicare ratios will decrease, as will the Medicare authorized amounts."
Dorothy Stafford, the wife of a retired Master Sergeant in Marshall, Texas writes, "I heard Massachusetts senatorial candidate Scott Brown, an Army reserve officer, speak about his opposition to congressional plans for ending Tricare for Life. "That was the first time I have heard someone mention shutting down Tricare and I am writing my Senators and congressmen stating my opposition to this bill."
From the Marine Corps retired ranks comes a comment from William Bloomfield.. He believes all the back room dealings in Washington should really get veterans and retirees 'juices flowing'. "That is", he says, "if we can wake them up so that they can read what is going on. There must be more activity by us in the retired community, especially since some of the service organizations (can you say American Legion) have started drinking the Administration 'Kool-Aid' by the bucketful. It is time to get things stirred up in DC and a lot more."
Marine Corps widow Jo Dermody informs us, "I call at least twice a week regarding Tricare for Life. I call my two senators, my rep and Joe Lieberman because he is open to try to keep Tricare for Life. I also call people involved in the healthcare bill and have a letter going out tomorrow to Secretary Gates. I am exhausted from working on this, but do it in the memory of my husband who was promised things and had them taken from him. I am not sure the military organizations are fighting very hard for us widows and retirees. If you can think of more I can do, let me know."
Former combat correspondent and fellow Marine, author Charles Henderson of Colorado sent our column titled "Military Retirees, Victims of a Congressional Shell Game" to his friend Senator Jim Webb. In his letter to the Virginia senator Henderson says, "I hear it again and again that Tricare for Life is not at risk, but then I read the numbers and I wonder if we are being told that the emperor is wearing this fine set of garments, but is truly naked." He then urges Webb to weigh in on behalf of all senior military retirees. Henderson reminds his congressional friend "Regarding veterans benefits and what America owes those who fought and died for her, it is not an entitlement. It is an obligation! Promises made must be kept! Without the sacrifices of our warriors, the people in this great nation would quite literally have nothing. Keeping the promise is little payment for that."
David Smith is a retired Navy Chief living in the Philippines. He read the 'Shell Game'. article about the looming attack on Tricare for Life. Though he agrees the healthcare reform legislation now pending could seriously damage our current military health care programs, he contacted the American Military Retirees Association about the issues we documented. The reply of that service organization was they didn't lend much credence to what I had written and the article was 'viral'. Since that is a term meaning something is spread rapidly like a virus, I really hope they are correct.. Our only hope is to reach the entire military community and have them speak out, if we have any chance to solidify the future of all military and veteran health programs. Military retirees and all veterans must make their voices be heard loud and clear in the very halls where all the congressional shell games are played.
Thomas D. Segel
If you think our Government would NOT do anything to harm Veterans,
turn to history for a STERN reminder.